Biofuel key to maritime decarbonisation, but challenges present, DNV says

In its latest white paper “Biofuels in shipping,” classification society DNV has reported that the flexibility of biofuels can enable the shipping industry to accelerate its journey towards decarbonisation while maintaining operational efficiency. However, the current limitations in production capacity may impact short-term supply and create stiff competition with other sectors.

Courtesy of DNV

DNV noted that the current global production capacity of sustainable biofuels is around 11 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe) per year, predicting that a sustainable and economically viable supply of biofuels, ranging from 500 to 1300 Mtoe annually, can be achieved by 2050.

However, to fully decarbonise shipping using biofuels, in combination with energy efficiency measures, DNV said that an annual supply of 250 Mtoe of sustainable biofuels is required by 2050. This would represent 20-50% of potential global production.

The classification society also pointed out that regulatory developments, such as the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), present a strong incentive for embracing biofuels, making both biofuels and biomass highly sought after by various sectors as they strive for decarbonisation.

Eirik Ovrum, Principal Consultant in DNV Environment Advisor, commented: “Biofuels are poised to play a notable role in the decarbonisation of shipping. Nevertheless, existing constraints on production capacity and competition from other sectors are likely to impact short-term supply to the maritime industry.”

“A major build-up of sustainable production capacity is needed before biofuels can reach their full potential and thus shipping’s goal of decarbonising will need to be achieved in combination with energy efficiency measures as well as the use of other low carbon fuels alternatives.”

At the beginning of this year, during a DNV Maritime webinar, Sanjay Kuttan, Chief Technology Officer at the Global Centre for Maritime Decarbonisation, said: “Biofuels are actually a low-hanging fruit insofar as infrastructure compatibility is concerned. While infrastructure is not a concern, policy gaps need to be improved to allow for more widespread adoption of biofuels.”

In conclusion, biofuels have the potential to play a significant role in maritime decarbonisation, but their viability depends on the industry’s ability to address the remaining challenges.

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